Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Slovenia Recce

It had taken a long time and a lot of emails to arrange, but on 17th May I flew out of Stansted bound for Ljubljana, in Slovenia, to check out the fishing on the Idrijca River and tributaries. I was joined by my friend and Hardy Greys Academy manager Andy Smith, and we were eager to discover what the region offered.


View from Tilnik Farm bedroom
View from Tilnik Farm bedroom
I had been invited by Kate and Brett Bedford, an English couple who own Tilnik Farm, overlooking the Idrijca River. Originating from the north of England they have been living in Slovenia for the past 6 years. During that time they have renovated the old farmhouse into what can only be described as a tribute to all their hard work. There are 2 spacious apartments over 2 floors, plus their living quarters. Both apartments have everything one could need on a fishing holiday, not to mention the fantastic view down the Idrijca Valley. In addition to the high standard of accommodation Kate and Brett looked after our every need. We took the full board option and as testament to Kate's cooking skills I came home a few pounds heavier from just 4 nights at Tilnik Farm!


Local produce
Local produce
Kate met us at Ljubljana Airport (surely one of the most scenic airports in the world) and drove us west to her farm, located between Ceskno and Tolmin. It's a stunning drive over a mountain and through pretty villages and we were blessed with warm sunny weather. Once at Tilnik Farm we were offered homemade salami, cured ham and local cheese, all washed down with some outstanding, locally produced, red wine, to revive us from our journey.

After a good night's sleep and breakfast we were met by our guide for the day, Blaz, who was going to show us 2 of the Idrijca's tributaries, Trebuscica and Tolminka. The former we fished first, a small, crystal clear stream, climbing into the mountains from the valley below. The surroundings were something special; high mountains, tree covered slopes, quaint buildings, all set off by a clear, deep blue sky. The Trebuscica here had stocked and wild rainbow trout, and native marble trout, but far more of the former. We saw a few decent marble trout but they remained elusive. We did have good numbers of rainbows from a series of pools, stocked and wild, on nymphs and dries, before moving to the Tolminka. On reflection we both felt that the Trebuscica needed more exploration in its higher reaches, where we feel it must hold only wild trout.

Releasing a wild rainbow - Trebuscica
Releasing a wild rainbow - Trebuscica
The Tolminka is a much bigger river where we fished, at the confluence with the Soca River. As with all the rivers in the region the scenery is stunning. We didn't see as many fish here but they were there. I caught a few rainbows, as did Andy, though he also caught a grayling which was almost white in colour. The Tolminka was deep and powerful in places and it was difficult to get your nymph down. I should point out that in Slovenia the rule is one fly only, so deep nymphing is awkward without the use of some form of additional weight. We used both split shot and tungsten putty on the leader, which, despite being difficult to cast, did the trick. We were both tired come the end of the day and on returning to Tilnik Farm we were revived with Slovenian beer and nibbles as we chatted to Kate and Brett about the day's fishing.

Andy on the Tolminka River
Andy on the Tolminka River
Next day we had Tomo as our guide. We met in a cafe over coffee and discussed the day ahead. Tomo works for Tolmin Angling Club, as well as being president of the local fire station. We started the day being driven around some of his favourite places, looking for large marble trout in deep holes, before being driven miles into the headwaters of the Baca River. Of course the scenery was beautiful, getting better and more remote with every mile. When we finally pulled over the Baca looked very inviting, but small, and I was glad I'd at the last minute packed my 7' 6" #3 Hardy Uniqua. We felt the river was too small to fish the usual leap frog each other style of fishing, so we shared the short rod and took it turns casting to the fish we spotted in the clear water. The river here, high in the mountains, contained native marble trout, brown trout and hybrids of the two. We fished all afternoon through a variety of pools, casting to fish we could clearly see in the water, or covering the occasional rising fish. At the end of the day we were both highly satisfied with the day's sport, probably me more so as small stream fishing is right up my street. We'd caught all 3 species of trout, with marble trout to around the 1lb mark, and all on dries.
Andy fishes the Baca River

Our last day was spent unguided on the Idrijca River, right below Tilnik Farm. We fished dries and nymphs and caught plenty of fish, especially Andy, who hit on 'the' method right from the start. Basically he was casting his weighted nymph into the slow water on the opposite side of river, letting it sink and dead drift a few feet, then holding so the fly would lift and swing. The fish would hit the fly as it started to lift.

And that was it, fishing over for this trip. The fishing had been enjoyable, challenging at times and varied, but we both felt we had only scratched the surface of the fishing available in the area. 3 more days would have been perfect and so we must return to finish, no continue, what we started. We are hoping to return later this year and/or next year, so if you are interested in joining us please do get in touch. A trip for 3 people, plus myself, costs from £450 full board at Tilnik Farm, which includes fishing permits. There would be a flight and hire car to add to this.

A Baca Marble Trout
A Baca Marble Trout
I should also explain about the rainbow trout, which it may surprise you to hear are stocked into the rivers in Slovenia? At first I was disappointed to find out that the rivers were stocked with rainbows (as opposed to browns), but this is done to protect the stocks of marble trout. Introduced brown trout were found to be breeding with the native marble trout and threatening the future of this rare trout. Rainbows spawn at a different time of year and therefore don't crossbreed.

Link to Tilnik Farm website: http://www.tilnikfarm.com
Links to fishing sites: Tolmin Angling Club, Idrija Fishing Association, Fly Fishing Point

Early morning mist over the Idrijca Valley
Early morning mist over the Idrijca Valley

Flights available from East Midlands Airport to Triest in Italy with Ryanair; or with Easyjet from Stansted to Ljubljana. Both have approximately the same transfer time of about 1 hour 15 minutes to Tilnik Farm.